Friday, April 28, 2006

My Most Daring Fashion Intervention Yet

new barber

"New barber?" "Short?" Who on God's green earth could that sniper be referring to?

wolvie dress casual

This is from "Wolverine and the Punisher" #2 (November 1993). Way-out artistic interpretation of Wolverine by Gary Erskine.

So the mutant healing factor provides no defense against bad hair days, huh? If Wolverine was a real person -- and haven't we all masturbated about that? -- I suppose this is how his hair would be. Greasy, tangled, and reeking of cigar smoke. None of those achingly dated "animal ear" points. (Wolverine won a Timberwolf Scholarship to the Cain And Abel School of Cosmetology!)

But seriously... Wolvie! Er, may I call you Wolvie? No? Fine. And please move your claws away from my jugular vein. Many thanks. Seriously, Mister Wolverine, you're a mess. Run a brush through that rat's nest and apply some product. Or at least tie it back in a ponytail -- I'm pretty sure I've seen you do that before. And stop slouching! It looks like you have a hump. And about your clothes -- when you're short and stocky, loose-fitting clothes are a huge no-no. They make you look a good fifty pounds heavier. Look at yourself here. You look fat! You're not fat. You've got washboard abs, for Pete's sake! Not that you can tell in this little ensemble. And the whole "civilian clothes over superhero costume" thing just ain't workin'. Not when you can see the costume poking out. You don't see painters wearing tanktops over their coveralls, do ya? Or Marines wearing cut-off jeans over their crisply pressed dress trousers. I know you know this. It's like you're just stumbling around in a daze here. SNAP OUT OF IT!

heat image

Yeah, that and the hair.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Haunted Hos!

"The Warlord" # 45 (May, 1981) is all about scantily-clad women being grabbed by scary monsters, but I'm the one who had to deal with the horror of their outfits. In the main story, elaborately VanDyked "man of action" Travis Morgan must stop a trio of giant cyclopes from abducting the womenfolk of a race of tree-dwelling dwarves. I've only glimpsed the tree-dwelling dwarf society and I've never visited them, so I guess I'm pulling a "Lars Van Trier" when I say that they're undoubtedly the worst people ever to have existed on or under the planet.

tree dwelling prostitutes

All the dwarf women we see in this issue -- and it's a lot! -- are busty skanks clad only in skimpy rags, while the only two dwarf men we see are dumpy, pot-bellied, and covered in layer upon layer of garish Elizabethan/Victorian clothing. Apparently tree-dweeling dwarf society is divided into two unequal strata: the pimps and the hos. Look at that diminutive, big-headed tramp, desperately angling for the attention of beefy hunk. (And succeeding, I guess! Ew.) It's like the Skartaris version of "American Idol." Any moment now she's going to slowly clap her hands with her fingers splayed apart and tell the hunky guy he has "a beautiful spirit." And then she'll invite him back to her dressing-tree and deny the whole thing later.

Later, the Warlord -- who is all about delegation -- arranges for the captive tree-dwelling prostitutes to be rescued by a woman who could really use a Brazilian wax.

fur bikini

Yeah, yeah, it's a furry bikini. Still, when the fur is an exact match for your own hair, is it really a good idea to wear something like that? And again, look at the tree-dwelling dwarf women and their ripped clothing. The cyclopes didn't do that to them when they kidnapped them -- that's just how the dwarf ladies happened to be dressed at the time. Creepy!

Aaaannnd creepier.

In the "Omac" backup story, penciller Greg LaRoque hopes nobody who sees this has ever read an X-Men comic and will therefore think that the carnival barker's hairdo is kooky and original! Ah, youth! But the lady in the lime green is the scariest part of the story. Radioactive earrings, boots that are literally painted on and puffy-yet-ventilated sleeves. And the hair! All that hair, and the monster, sight unseen, somehow manages to bypass it and grab her by her waist. Well, it was probably all sticky with Alberto VO5, anyway.

Hey, want to see something really scary?


Cool your jets, Poindexter. I hate to be the one to break this to you, but you're a hyena-faced spaz and nobody likes you. (There, better.) Also, I'm going to have to revoke your muttonchops. You're just not cool enough to carry them off. *RRRRIIIP!!* Yes, I know it stings. Stop crying and take it like a man. What am I going to do with them? Not that it matters to you, but I'm going to preserve them in brine and keep them on a shelf. Next to Cliff Carmichael's.

(I can't 100% guarantee a post tomorrow -- 95% but not 100%. I'm helping someone install laminate flooring in their house and computer access is an unknown quantity. Everything will be back to normal for Monday, though.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

One Size Fits Small


Ah, the X-Men school uniform: the Yugo of superhero costumes! Plain, ill-fitting, and offered with your choice of alarmingly pointy mask or skull-pinching cowl, the standard X-Men uniform can instantly frumpify any hero! Even fruit-striped babe Marionette, noseless faux-Klingon Acroyear, pistachio-skinned Tourette's sufferer Bug, fairyland hottie Fireflyte, ass-kicking lump o' carrotcake dough Huntarr, and... well, Commander Rann was kind of a pill to start with, so he doesn't really count.

The above panel can be found in "The X-Men And The Micronauts" #2 (February, 1984), written by Chris Claremont and Bill Mantlo with pencils by Butch Guice and inks by Bob Wiacek and Kelley Jones. Remember when Guice used to draw like that? Kinda chunkier, with a lot more bounce and verve, and not so stiffly realistic and dependant on photo reference? *sigh* I miss Chunk-style Guice. I mean, I can understand if he doesn't want to draw like that anymore, but I don't find his current style to be an improvement. The characters look rigid and awkward and a bit splintery, like they're constructed out of something that at any second could snap apart and embed itself in my eye. And the faces are usually dour and glum and lifeless, like the people are all posing for a passport photo that never gets taken. Bleh. Come back to us, Chunk-style!

Anyway, this comic has a crazy amount of mental/spiritual possession going on -- even for a Claremont book! The Micronauts are mentally enslaved by that Entity guy, and the Entity guy has taken over Professor X, plus the issue starts with one of Claremont's patented nightmare sequences, in which Bug gets transformed against his will into an actual bug and Marionette is made to dance around like an actual marionette. It's so obvious; why didn't anybody think of that before? Oh yeah. Because it's obvious. Effing Claremont. (Get well soon! My thoughts and prayers go out to you! Just don't ever write any more comics, ever, ever again, okay? Thanks.) But here's the cherry on Claremont's Infinitely Rehashed Plot Sundae:

karza kitty

Baron Karza in Kitty Pryde's body. I know what you're thinkin'. And it means you're going straight to Hell. See you there!

This is from Kitty's "Ariel" phase, between her "Sprite" and "Shadowcat" identities. I remembered it as being somewhat unattractive. Imagine my astonishment to reread this comic after twenty-odd years and to discover that it is, in fact, a complete eyesore. The fit: baggy. The color scheme: lime and cantaloupe. And the facepaint! Ye gods! Thank God Kitty was on a team that went out on missions instead of doing on-the-spot emergency work like Spider-Man. ("Somebody help! The 1st National Bank is being robbed!" "This sounds like a job for... Ariel! In about half an hour, which should allow me to find a women's bathroom that doesn't have a huge line in front of the door and to get my face made up just exactly right... y'know what, better make that forty-five minutes... everybody just stay where they are, alrighty? I'll see you again in about forty-five minutes... or maybe an hour. Just to be safe.")

And now, a Valentine's Day message from Hannibal Lecter.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I Wear Green And Purple And A Punctuation Mark. Who Am I?

original riddler

Guess who that guy is. Yup! It's the Riddler! Believe it or not. This image is from "Detective Comics Annual" #8 (1995) by Chuck Dixon and Kieron Dwyer. It's the story that made me love the Riddler. Which was a feat tantamount to sending a manned spacecraft to Pluto, since before I'd always hated the guy. Dixon and Dwyer managed to make the querying l'il irritant sympathetic with this origin story, which chronicles the Riddler's arduous journey from the small time to the big leagues. And it's reflected perfectly in his costumes.

That was his first attempt at a costume, up there. I love the stocking cap. So low-rent, it's kinda charming. And the question mark was painted on. Beautiful. It puts me in mind of the DIY badguys in Bob Burden's comics. It looks like any second now, Bondo-Man or Jumpin' Jehosaphat is going to plow into him and beat him senseless.

The Riddler tried a little harder for his next job.

2nd try

Here we have the introduction of purple into the Riddler's costume. And how 'bout those accessories? He's bolstered his confidence with not one, but two phallic symbols! (And he then touches the tips of them together. I don't think Freud had a chapter on that one.) But white for the question mark? Oh, honey, no.

And now a little sumpin' for the breeders!

3rd attempt

The Riddler's costume here -- *ahem!* Eyes to the center of the panel, buster! I'll get to the Skanks of Prey in just a sec. Anyhow, this is the first version of the costume that most folks associate with the Riddler. Thanks to the old TV show, natch. Although I'm pretty sure that one didn't have a big leather belt holding up the tights. Not seen in this panel: black boots with really thick soles. And you just know those gloves are Playtex. Like I said, first attempt. But the crudity of it all is almost sweet. If you're wondering about why the Riddler's nose looks so odd in this panel, it's because it's bandaged. Because it keeps getting broken, because the Riddler keeps mouthing off to brawny thugs and they keep punching him in the face. Example dialog from the previous page:

Denglar (brawny thug): The police will be on to us like stink on fish.
Riddler: Well, Denglar, I've got a riddle for you. How do you keep an idiot waiting?
Denglar: I dunno.
Riddler: I'll tell you later.

And then Denglar punches the Riddler in the face.

Still, I never cared much for this outfit, especially in its refined, unitard version. Maybe because it was almost too theatrical -- and I know it appeared in comics first, but it really seems to me like the product of somebody who never read comics, and it was their idea of a SUPER! (in a Big Gay Al voice) costume.

Oooohhhkay. How 'bout those floozies, fellas? The one on the left needs to unbuckle a couple of things, because they're cutting off the blood supply to her head. Nice heart-shaped earrings, by the way. This is what the Care Bears cartoon would have been like, if it had been produced by Vince McMahon. Also, check out the spiked thigh-band or whatever that thing's supposed to be. She'll puncture a vital artery if she puts her thighs too close together -- like that's ever going to happen! Nice Devo sunglasses on the other gal. Either that, or somebody pulled an "X-23" with Cyclops' DNA.

I tried to picture what these ladies would look like if they'd been drawn by Dick Sprang. It gave me a tummy ache.

final riddler

YEAH, BOY! There's the Riddler I love! Finally, a dapper, dandyish look to go with the cocky attitude! And so generous! When he was at the haberdashers and they gave him his bowler hat, he said, "Y'know what? I'd like to buy a round of bowler hats for the house! Bowler hats for everybody!" And then the place went apeshit.

It's a great look for the guy. Very crisp, very polished, and it's all about creating an impression -- right down to the painstakingly pomaded hair with a single loose forelock for a bit of boyish charm. (It worked for Superman and it works for the Riddler.)

His hench-gals still look like whores, but hey, whatever works for them.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Moral Realignment Challenge: The Elongated Man And Doctor Light

good doctor light

The above image and the following "next issue" blurb can be found on the letters page of "Doctor Light" #128 (April, 1981) which was published on Earth 3.1:

NEXT MONTH: Why is DOCTOR LIGHT'S glamorous girlfriend, SUE DEARBON: GIRL P.I. being shadowed by that gruesome sideshow performer-turned-criminal, the eerie ELONGATED MAN? The Knight of Light and the Socialite Sleuth have only 24 hours to find the answer, and their only clue is... a horoscope? Don't miss "Identity: Pisces" by Paul Kupperberg, Jose Delbo, and Frank Chiaramonte!

If you're wondering just what the hell is going on, this is the first of my "moral realignment" costume design challenges, in which I reinterpret a comic book hero's costume for a villainous role, and vice-versa. Initially I was going to do just one costume at a time, but I decided it would be more fun to do them in opposing pairs. Let's look at the originals:

bad doctor lightgood elongated man

For the heroic version of Doctor Light, I ditched the fin on his head and recut the cowl so it could expose a youthful head of hair. And though it pained me, I shaved off his dapper goatee. I mean, I'm partial to facial hair but I know that for a classically styled superhero, it's almost never done. The classic comic book cliche is that beard=evil. So it had to go. I redesigned his costume to show more white and I replaced the black with a friendly Supermannish sky blue. I simplified the starburst logo, which incidentally made it look like the Marvel "Captain Marvel" logo -- not on purpose but I thought it was a cool tie-in so I kept it. And I got rid of the cape in favor of those shoulder patches I like so much.

For the villainous version of the Elongated Man, I almost gave him Doctor Light's old fin, but it made him look too much like one of those lame Golden Age Marvel heroes. They were always fighting crime with their faces completely exposed and a big dorky fin on their heads. So I went the Lex Luthor route and made him bald. And I gave him a goatee! Because facial hair is comic book shorthand for menace. (Pfft. Whatever.) Leaving the head bare, I was inspired to go with the 70's variation on his costume, which had a bare chest. For the rest of the costume, I reversed the red and black, made the yellow trim zig-zag (kinda like Silver Age Marvel, I have to admit) and raised the border on the plunging neckline into a jagged, flared collar. Very 70's Dave Cockrum, very Nightcrawleresque. Finally, I replaced the blank oval on his belt with the Mask of Tragedy to reflect my vision of him as a shape-changing former sideshow act.

And true to comic book form, the good Doctor Light is handsome and the bad Elongated Man is... not.

I'll have another one of these in a week or so: the Flash and Murmur (of all people! But I think I found an interesting take on him).

What reversed hero/villain pairs would you like to see?